Report on Q1 2023 – crony capitalism closing ranks

Report on Q1 2023 – crony capitalism closing ranks

21 Apr 2023

The first quarter saw a limited banking crisis, including the demise of the wounded Swiss champion Credit Suisse, but otherwise there was not much to see. The FTSE 100 managed to rise by 2.4%, again doing better than the more domestically-based FTSE 250 (+0.4%). Government bond yields were also largely unchanged in the UK and Germany but lower in the US (3.6% vs 3.9%) where inflation is more obviously falling.

It was a curious incident of the dog in the night time quarter – despite much noise about failing banks and impending recessions, the markets snoozed their way through. 

For an investor, something not happening is every bit as significant as something happening. 

My theory is that large corporations are more comfortably in bed with governments than has ever been the case. Due to the explosion of government borrowing and spending since the “great financial crisis” of 2008-9 and the doubling down that occurred with lockdowns. Governments are the most important customers and, as we know, the customer is always right. 

Corporate lobbying may be unedifying but it appears to be annoyingly successful. Politicians who take a principled stand tend to find themselves maligned as borderline mentally ill if they cross an agreed line delineating agreed public/private interests.  As Groucho Marx said, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” 

Essentially, the governments of the US, UK and Europe have huge patronage at their disposal and it is hardly surprising that big business knows where to find it. 

This is what is sometimes called Crony Capitalism, defined as –

An economic system characterized by close, mutually advantageous relationships between business leaders and government officials.

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